In honor of summer and the long 4th of July holiday weekend, I figured I would reflect a little bit on one of my favorite summer activities: windsurfing.

I learned to windsurf from my father during our annual family trips to Maine in August. Since I really only got to practice windsurfing one week each year, my learning curve progressed in slow motion. Each year I would take a tiny step toward improving my skills.

For the first few years I would just try to hold on and not fall too much. Occasionally I would get stuck out in the middle of the lake and someone would have to come rescue me. I would always let out the sail to slow down when I got going too fast for fear that a fall might injure me. There were even days where I was left cold, wet, and paddling to safety when the wind became too strong to haul the sail out of the water.

A few years later I really started to enjoy sailing. One of the wonderful things about windsurfing is it’s completely silent. When you’re far away from the shore all you can hear is the shushing noise caused by your board cutting through the water. It’s relaxing and meditative.

In later years I found myself wanting to go faster. I experimented with different sail positions, jibing, water starts, and I even started to pull up the centerboard, which made the board unstable, but reduced drag just enough to get a little extra speed.

One of the interesting things about learning a new skill one week at a time over 30 years is you can really break down the way learning happens. For instance: at no point over the course of my life have I ever felt like I was actively getting better at windsurfing – it just happened subconsciously as I worked at it more and more. There were plenty of times I felt like giving up, but all the while I was slowly assembling the building blocks to become a sailor.

Said a different way – my conscious mind had no ability to see that my unconscious mind was learning to sail.

I often think about windsurfing when I’m learning how to do something new. Even if at first, all I can do is hold on, I know before long I’ll be pulling up the centerboard trying to eek out just a little bit more speed.

Happy July 4th

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